A first-round single-elimination format debuted at yesterday's opening day of the state wrestling tournament at McDaniel College. It led to the early, and unexpected, exit of a number of top contenders.
All told, eight of the 112 top seeds - there were four No. 1 seeds in each of 14 weight classes in both Class 4A-3A and 2A-1A - were eliminated in the opening round. In previous years, under what was known as a "follow-the-winner" format, they would have been able to continue in the losers' bracket.
Under the new format, however, double elimination doesn't begin until the quarterfinal round.
After the first two rounds, No. 11 Severna Park leads in Class 4A-3A with 32 1/2 points, followed by No. 8 Old Mill and No. 10 Arundel (tied with 31). Both the Falcons and Patriots advanced three wrestlers to the semifinals, and Arundel two. Several other teams, including Perry Hall, No. 3 River Hill and defending champion Chesapeake, were still well within striking distance.
Sixth-ranked Harford Tech, shooting for its first state title in any sport, led in 2A-1A with 48 points, followed by No. 2 Owings Mills (41 1/2 ) and Walkersville (33). Harford Tech advanced five to the semifinals and Owings Mills four.
"I don't know who the team to beat is," Owings Mills coach Guy Pritzker said. "It's so even, you can't tell. Everybody looks like they have three or four in the semis."
Austin Sneeringer, a top seed at 171 pounds from River Hill, was one of several top competitors to fall in the first round. Sneeringer, the 4A-3A North regional champion in his weight class, led 3-0 heading into the third round before falling to Calvert's Brett Holman, 7-5.
Other local top seeds to lose in the first round were Glenelg's David Brindza (2A-1A, 112 pounds), who fell to Harford Tech's Eric King, and Kenwood's Kyle Krumholtz (4A-3A, 119), who lost to Frederick's Matt Sera. Krumholtz, a senior, entered the day ranked fifth in 4A-3A in the latest Maryland State Wrestling Association rankings.
Several other local wrestlers, competing as No. 4 seeds, also knocked off top seeds, including Sparrows Point's Alex Webber (2A-1A, 103), Oakland Mills' Jeff Plasse (2A-1A, 125), Fallston's Drew Beck (4A-3A, 135) and Arundel's Kristopher Hood (4A-3A, 275).
Fallston lost one of its top threats when Chris Baum lost to unbeaten Derek McDermott in the opening round. Baum had finished third at last year's tournament after an early loss.
"That's the problem with this tournament going to single elimination," Fallston coach Andy Amasia said. "A kid like Baum, who placed third here last year, but didn't have a good regional tournament, goes against the No. 1 kid in the state, loses and he's out, and a half-dozen kids that he beat are still in."
Said Arundel coach Billy Royer, who lost three wrestlers in the first round: "It stinks. You're eliminating a lot of good kids. It's terrible."
Tournament director Duke Beattie said the change was made for a number of reasons, including a way to thin out the sometimes dangerously large crowd and to avoid holding the consolation finals at the same time as the finals, adding more pomp and circumstance to the ending.
The tournament will resume at 10 this morning, with the finals set for 6 p.m.